Our team speaks with clients, partners, and destination experts every day, and you know what they’re saying? Live events are back, guys! About 65% of planners will produce their next live event in the next three months. They’re not waiting until later this year, and that’s huge for the meetings and events industry. While this is all ridiculously exciting, as a planner, you still have a responsibility to keep your attendees safe and healthy to your best ability. With that comes the need for additional planning and robust safety policies. Today, we’re going to share an actionable COVID-19 event planning checklist as you start to get back to in-person events this quarter, next, or whenever that time comes for your business.
We want to spark conversations and give you a tangible list of COVID-19 safety items you should consider to keep your guests safe. Use this as a guide to get your business and customers back out there!
Before hosting an in-person event, your organization must do a risk assessment. This could look like asking questions including:
- What are the current restrictions in the destination we’ve chosen?
- Do we need additional event insurance?
- What health & safety policies will we implement? Can we cover that cost and still be profitable?
- What information do we need to collect for potential contact tracing? How will we manage that should someone infected with COVID-19 be present at the event?
- What touch-free technology can we deploy on-site to make registration, booths, and sessions as contactless as possible to reduce risk?
- Are there any other risk reduction measures we need to take to protect our business, team, partners, and attendees?
Now, full disclaimer: We’re not lawyers. So, if you want to do a full, official risk assessment, we suggest you speak with your company’s legal counsel.
COVID-19 On-Site Health & Safety Requirements to Consider
Will you require your attendees to be vaccinated?
If so, you need to have a system in place for them to submit their vaccination cards upon registration, allow time for the team to review legitimacy, and decide whether or not you’ll also require the physical card or an image upon arrival with a stamp or indicator that they’ve been double-checked and are indeed vaccinated against COVID-19.
Masks & Temperature Checks
Will you implement mask mandates and temperature checks?
This is starting to be a tricky subject with the recent ruling to remove mask mandates on transportation in the United States. However, mask mandates still hold firm in many countries outside the United States. As a result, you still receive a temperature check upon arrival to a venue, and sanitize your hands before heading into the event.
If you’re hosting an event with international attendees, it’s surely safer to have a mask mandate to ensure everyone feels comfortable. But, it’s not just about safety. It’s about comfort to ensure attendance numbers are where you need them to be.
One way you can start to decide about your mask mandates if you’re hosting in an area where masks are not required is to send out a survey to your target audience about their preferences. From there, go with the majority and ensure you outline what on-site requirements will be in your pre-event communication.
Will you limit your capacity to leave plenty of space for social distancing?
While most capacity restrictions have been waived, this again comes down to the comfort level of your team and attendees. Many people don’t want to be crammed into a live event show floor as they have in previous years. If you aren’t limiting attendance, perhaps design your agenda to encompass different tracks at different times, so large group events are split 50/50 for meals, sessions, and show floor access to help limit close contact where you can.
Enhanced Cleaning On-Site
How can the venue help you implement enhanced cleaning procedures?
One thing many attendees like to see nowadays is cleaning staff on-site. Whereas pre-COVID it was better out of sight, out of mind, it’s all changed. People want to see that you’re concerned about their safety. This means having high-traffic areas wiped down hourly, having a bathroom attendant to sanitize, providing breaks to clean session rooms, etc. Ask your venue to provide suggestions and ensure you’re aware of the increased cost for this and budget accordingly. It’s a small price to pay for health, safety, and attendee comfort levels!
Will you provide innovative culinary displays to reduce cross-contamination?
Many organizations are still straying away from self-serve buffets that were ever-popular pre-COVID-19. Honestly, we don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. While they’re cost-effective, they’re rather boring.
Spice up your event with innovative culinary trends like salads in a jar for lunch, canned wine from a trendy label for cocktail hour, individual cheese plates for hors d’oeuvres (Uhm, no need to share these delicious creamy morsels? Yes, please!), small passed bites, and ideas like that. Catersource shares some fun ideas in this article for small sips and bites!
Floorplans & Event Design
Will social distancing or attendee count impact event design?
Do you need to place extra space between chairs? Will you create a more lounge-like session space to allow for comfort and distance? Will booths be designed to be larger for greater distancing? With the warmer months, will you simply host sessions and events 100% outside like this recent women’s travel conference? These are all questions you must ask to design your floorplans intentionally and for comfort.
At the end of the day, communication is key to hosting a safe and successful in-person event. That’s why you must add communication to your In-Person Event Planning Checklist.
What does your team need to know about health & safety on-site?
Be sure that your team has the most up-to-date information in terms of public health requirements, your event’s health requirements, and tell them that if they’re not feeling well, it’s okay to stay home! You also need to instruct them on what to do if during temperature checks or if someone tests positive mid-event and comes to them first, how they should handle or who their event manager is to contact.
Hotel and Venue Contracts
What do you want your providers to be contractually obligated to provide for you and your attendees?
Hotels are getting tricky to work with as they recoup lost pandemic income. That said, everything you need from them needs to be in writing in your contract. This includes proper staffing levels for meals and outlets, enough space for social distancing with no added rental fees, a cap on cleaning labor costs, etc. Think about what you expect from your venue team, and make sure you have it agreed upon in writing.
Liability Release on Registration
This is a release of risk for your business that could be a necessity moving forward.
Again, we’re not lawyers, but you need to protect your assets! Get a legal release form from your lawyer that you can use for attendees to sign off on when they register to ensure you’re not liable if someone contracts COVID at your event.
Passive Communication On-Site
How will you keep your attendees comfortable?
This idea was trending on LinkedIn for a while, and we love it. Give attendees wristbands or colored lanyards that indicate their comfort level. For example, green means they’re down for handshakes and hugs, while red means they’d prefer to just wave from afar still. This way, people can be empathetic with others’ comfort levels without having to openly discuss it. Because let’s be honest, we’re all a little bit sick of the COVID talk, right?
Post-Event Contact Tracing, If Required
As planners, we always plan for the worst, right?
As planners, we’re trained to prepare for the worst-case scenarios. While you can do everything in your power to avoid COVID-19 spreading at your event if an asymptomatic person arrives and you don’t know until after, you do need a plan for letting other attendees know. What does that contact tracing process and communication strategy look like?
Before the event, make certain your venue contract clearly specifies sanitation and safety responsibilities and has trained its staff on COVID-19 protocols. (For more on contracts, see here.) Communicate venue safety and hygiene measures to attendees and notify them of extra measures you are taking. Stipulate that access will be denied to anyone with an elevated temperature reading. State clearly that no hugs, handshakes, or fist bumps will be permitted—and suggest friendly alternatives, such as elbow bumps and prayerful hands (the namaste greeting).
Is the In-Person Event Planning Checklist Overwhelming to You? Enlist Help from EBA! We Got You.
Planning an in-person event today is exciting and exhilarating after so much time behind a screen. But it doesn’t come without its added stresses. The best way to skip the overwhelm and produce an event that keeps everyone safe is to hire a professional planner. Our team at EBA lives and breathes the event industry with our finger on the pulse of trends, safety requirements, and more on the daily. Let us help you with your next in-person event. Schedule a time to chat today! We’ll help you come up with your own COVID-19-Era In-Person Event Planning Checklist for ultimate success.